Thinking about getting a Summer Job in Alaska? Here are our 10 reasons why you should spend this summer in SKAGWAY, AK.
...with photos that will make you want to apply for a job Right Now and book your flights for May!
There are lots of companies still hiring for 2018! Click here to access our free list of hiring companies and available positions in Skagway!
“It’s a beautiful day for flying,”
the unshaven, jeans wearing pilot said as he casually strolled through the door 40 minutes late.
For the past hour we’d been sitting at our gate in Juneau International Airport waiting to board a 7 seat Cessna for the final leg of our journey to Skagway, AK. We were tired and uncomfortable, and not in the mood.
“How do you guys feel about taking a detour over the ice fields?” He asked.
Maybe we were wrong about this guy.
14 days earlier I had lost my job in Oregon, just 10 dark days after our landlord informed us that he’d sold our house. We had to go somewhere, quickly.
We had no idea when we accepted our jobs at a brewery in Skagway, Alaska that it would be a decision that would change the entire course of our lives.
We had no Idea what to expect when we got to Skagway. We assumed it would be a sleepy place with not much going on.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Skagway, Alaska is summer camp for adults.
We were shocked to realize that nearly everyone in town was our age, everyone was from everywhere, and there were no boring people in sight.
We fell in love instantly.
According to the most recent census the population of Skagway is about 900, but in the summertime there are over 2,000 seasonal workers who flock here for summer jobs.
There are tons of jobs in Skagway, all you have to do is apply. You can work for restaurants, bars, tour operators, the train, the hotel, the bus companies, or any of the various retail locations in town.
Skagway is set up just the way it was when it was built in 1898. Broadway is lined with restored period era buildings, complete with false fronts, and there are wooden boardwalks along the main streets. It’s a town rich with history, which it celebrates and holds close.
Skagway has 5 bars in town, each with their own unique attributes; one of them even stays open until 5am, and reopens for breakfast at 8.
There’s live music to hear on almost any given night all summer long from local bands and open mic, to Karaoke for the brave.
Also, Marijuana is legal and (Updated: 3/2017) available at the local dispensary!
2. Get hired and move in!
When we arrived, we quickly learned that the most difficult thing about getting to Skagway was finding a place to live once you got there. Thankfully, our employer had housing available.
The entire town is only 4 blocks wide by 22 blocks long; and it’s fully enclosed by mountains and ocean. There just aren’t enough houses for all of the people.
Therefore, most summer jobs offer housing. The easiest way to get housing in Skagway is to get hired for the summer sometime around February or March and move in around April/May; that way they don’t run out of space before you get hired.
3 . End Dates
Every seasonal contract comes with something very important written on it, your end date.
Having a summer job with an end date allows you the freedom of knowing exactly when you’re going to be done working. You can make plans to travel to your next destination, or back home, or to your next job easily.
It also prevents you from getting burnt out since you can clearly see your end date in sight.
The leaves changing on the mountains around Skagway is a tell tale sign of the end of the season, as well as the increased visibility of the Northern Lights.
If you stay late enough in the the season you may even experience the first snowfall on the surrounding mountain tops.
The image Above is a photo of one of Skagway's local bands during the July 4th celebration. The community is very supportive of the musicians in town. You can see live music on any given night in Skagway.
The community in Skagway is unlike any we’ve ever seen anywhere. Most people are only here for the summer, although many who come here once, end up coming back year-after-year.
Very few live here year-round, yet there are more and more young people deciding to stay for the winter each year. The local year round community in Skagway is very tightly knit and supportive. They have to be to survive in such an isolated place. It's inspiring to see, really.
People take care of each other and form close relationships, yet still respect each other’s privacy. You can be whoever you want to be here, there’s little judgment, and there’s a friend for everyone.
Besides, we’re all a bunch of weirdos anyway.
Below is an image of community members participating in the Slow Bike Race, an event during Skagway's Annual July 4th Celebration.
It's very rare to have a night in Skagway where nothing is happening. Between weekly live music, open mic nights, trivia nights, karaoke nights, and seasonal events like the Summer Solstice, Rhubarb Festival, and the Red Onion's Drag Show, you'll have plenty to keep you busy.
And if none of that is your jam... you can always gather a few friends to have a low key evening around a campfire with some craft beer. (that's right.. the local liquor store stocks great craft beers!)
5. Tourist Money
Even if you don't particularly enjoy having your town overrun with tourists each day, they bring something very important off the ships and into town with them, money, and you’re going to get that money.
The tourists keep this town alive, and when it comes down to it, they’re the reason we come here. Their money goes into our paychecks, and they’ve got a lot to spend.
We wouldn’t come here if it wasn’t worth our time and money to get here every year.
Say Hello to Goodnight Gracie and Runaway Jim. We worked as costumed characters at a tourist attraction in Skagway.
Servers, bartenders, bus drivers, and tour guides also stand to rake in lots of tips in addition to their hourly wage.
(As a side note, servers and bartenders must also be paid no less than the AK state minimum wage)
In short, the money is good.
We chose to cruise around town with a tandem bike we borrowed from a Skagway local. It's by far one of our favorite ways to travel together. This photo was taken right before we rode this bad boy down the hill on the Dyea Rd.
6. No need for a car.
When the entire town is 22 blocks long by 4 blocks wide, there’s rarely any need for a car.
That’s not to say that people don’t bring their cars here, it’s always nice to drive somewhere across town and get there within 3 minutes, but you can easily get by with a bike.
Some of those people with cars are willing to let you borrow theirs if you need it, and if they're asked politely.
We left ours with a friend in the lower 48 for the whole summer.
7. Hiking & Outdoor Activities
Skagway is heaven for anyone who loves the outdoors.
There are seemingly endless hiking trails including the 33-mile Chilkoot trail used by thousands of prospectors on their way to Dawson City, Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.
Apart from hiking there’s also:
& an 18-hole disc-golf course
Not to mention, you're only 13 miles from British Columbia and the Yukon. If you’re not an outdoorsy type, you just might become one before Fall.
When we worked in Alaska we had the opportunity to take a Glacier Tour for Adam's Birthday! This is us with our friend Chris on top of Mead Glacier.
8. Tours and Excursions
Skagway is a cruise ship port-of-call, so there are lots of tours and excursions for the cruisers.
As a summer local, you can do them too! There’s:
The White Pass Yukon Route train
dog sled tours
a brothel tour
& so many more
If you happen to work for one of these tour operators, you might even get to do a lot of these for free.
9. Long Days
By the summer solstice, the sun sets in Skagway, AK around 10:30PM and rises around 3AM. The sky never even fully darkens in-between.
These long days allow you to fit so much more into your daily schedule.
Sure, it takes a little getting used to. It’s a little weird at first to wake up to the sun at 4:30AM and to go to bed when it’s still light outside. But soon you’ll see how much you benefit from having 6 extra hours of light each day.
When it gets dark around 8:00, your brain tells you it’s time to go home. Here in Skagway, it stays light until much later so it’s always easy to stay out and do things. Like...
Go for a hike after work or spontaneously go camping for a night!
10. Friends for life
You’re going to make a lot of friends in Skagway. You’re going to work, live, and play with a lot of the same people day in and day out.
You’re going to develop strong bonds with people that you can’t even explain to your friends “down south.”
When September comes, you wipe your tears, say your goodbyes and send each other off. With the HOPE that maybe you get to see them next summer.
(You know what they say in Skagway? Hope's Free...)
Or maybe you make plans to meet them somewhere else in the world.
Either way, you’re going to make new friends for life here, you can’t even avoid it.
If you're considering moving to Skagway check out these resources to help you plan your trip:
How to get a Summer Job in Alaska
Moving to Skagway: A Beginner's Guide
How to get to Skagway
Take the leap! Download the free Seasonal Work Handbook!
We’ll teach you how to break free of your daily grind!
What's stopping you?
Have you ever worked a seasonal job? What were your experiences like?
Great read! Thanks for writing about your experiences and sharing.
Thanks, Jesse! We LOVE Skagway and we wish everyone knew just how awesome this place really is.
Great read! I lived in Skagway as a kid from 1994-2000. Would love to spend a season there again someday!
I am 36 and got offered a job up there. Worried that everyone else will be way younger then me! Can you tell me the typical age of folks you met in skagway?
Thanks for reaching out. I’m glad to hear you got hired in Skagway, where will you be working? Don’t worry for a second about your age. We have friends of all ages in Skagway. People there are very welcoming. There are lots of people of all ages from high school graduates to retirees. The social scene is incredibly inclusive, and you’ll certainly have no trouble finding a group of people to associate yourself with, if that’s what you’re into. If you’re into hermit life, Skagway isn’t bad for that either! Send us an email if you have any questions or need any more information 🙂
Lucky you always wanted to have a slice of life in Skagway I loved my few hours there!
This place really is great, sorry to hear you had such a short amount of time to experience it. If you ever want to spend a summer working, doing whatever makes you happy, and making great friends, I can’t recommend Skagway enough.
Small Town Washington
I love Skagway. We stopped and camped there about 12 years ago. It was such a great time and one we talk about often. Would love to go back.
That’s awesome, it must be so different now. Do you remember where you camped? There are so many great places to hike and camp in Skagway.
This sounds so amazing! I am so jealous! 🙂
Lovely place! lovely people! working here has been an incredibly fun adventrue
Did you work there again this summer? We have a few friends from the dredge that stayed the winter. That little town will always feel like a home I can go back to. I just love it up there.
This is an awesome post! I’ve never really considered summer jobs abroad but they sound like a very tempting option :).
I worked there the last four years during the summers.
It’s a great place to earn a decent amount of money in a relatively short time. But there’s things to keep in mind:
1. Living expenses and food are expensive.
2. Produce comes into town once a week, but it’s not a lot. If you’re not at the store on Wednesday or Thursday, it’s very slim pickings.
3. People move from company to company throughout the summer due to conflicts at work, or a general need for a different job. If you don’t like your job, there’s going to be somebody else who’s willing to hire you.
4. Reputation is everything in this town, and of your character goes to shit, the town will know by 5pm the following day.
Thanks for your comments, Jonathan! It’s cool to hear from someone else who’s lived in the place we’ve come to love so much.
We completely agree with your 4 points about Skagway. We never meant to imply that Skagway is a place without challenges.Living in Alaska is clearly not for everyone. We found the cost of living to be quite high in Skagway also, especially when you factor the quality of what you’re paying for.
The produce situation was particularly challenging for us as well. We tried multiple different options including signing up for the “weekly mixed bag” from You Say Tomato, and have heard about some online grocery services similar to this as well. There doesn’t seem to be a great way of dealing with it other than good planning and hitting the store on Tuesday/Wednesday.
It’s funny how things work out with jobs in Skagway. We’ve always had the mindset that living in Skagway isn’t about the job you’re working, but how you spend your time outside of work. The long days give an amazing opportunity to really squeeze a lot out of a summer if you work it right. We worked for 2 different companies while we were in Skagway, and most of the people we know up there have worked for multiple companies as well. Whether you switch at the beginning of the season or mid way, it seems like there’s always plenty of jobs to go around. 🙂
We’ve also seen people get “run out of town” for lack of a better way of putting it. Sometimes people fuck up really bad in Alaska, and sometimes shitty people end up there too. However, we’ve found the Skagway community to be overwhelmingly welcoming and accessible. We’ve met some of the most amazing people there, and our friends who’ve lived in Skagway for much longer than us have had similar experiences with the local community.
Living in Skagway has its pros and cons like anywhere else. Thanks for helping us to share some of the more challenging aspects of this interesting place. Great to hear from you!
I just met a local from Skagway on Thanksgiving day. She offered me a summer job and I have been researching everything Skagway for the past three days. Would really like to hear more from you on your adventure. Please feel free to contact me via email that was provided.
Very intriguing. My gypsy soul urges me to quit my day job and head to the great outdoors.
Go for it, Bonnie! I checked out your blog and it seems like you would fit in perfect up there. We met some fellow intrepid grandparents in Alaska, many of whom we still keep up with and regard as dear friends. I mentioned that the population is very young, but in reality there are many wonderful and interesting people of all ages there. Skagway is a very special place and greater wordsmiths than I have come up short attempting up describe it’s beauty. I’ve spent a lot of time screaming from the mountaintops about this place for years now. I can’t encourage you enough to go for it. feel free to send us an email if you’d like to discuss this in a more private setting 😉 firstname.lastname@example.org For further reading about getting a job in AK you should check out this post about how to get a summer job in Alaska
Staci Mae Spillers
I lived & worked in Skagway for 5 “seasons” (5 half years). It was truly the best thing I ever did. I met friends for life. I still have best friends from it. I’m living in Jackson, WY now and I have, without planning, found myself with 6 other Skagway people here. We’re still working, playing & looking out for each other. I had a hard time making good girl friends before going to AK. I couldn’t find girls that liked the same things as me—working hard, playing outside, traveling and saying YES to adventure. I found this instantly in Skagway.
I’ve never seen a community that takes care of each other like this one. No one falls down without the entire town making vast efforts to pick them up, all without a sense of obligation or burden. They do it bc that’s what neighbors do.
After only one season, I returned my second season welcomed by year round locals with, “Welcome home!”. I thought I would work one summer and be done. 5 years later, I had to let go to start my life full time in the lower 48 with my soon to be husband. Guess where we met? ?
It’ll ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. Skagway saved me. And I know it’ll save many more.
It’s what you make it. Go get it.
Wow. Reading your comment seriously makes me happy … after years of dreaming of Alaska, I finally took the leap, leaving the 9-5 job and the rest of “conventional” life behind, and decided to just go for it. I am extremely grateful for being able to quickly get a job with a tour company in Skagway; I leave for Alaska on May 1 to start this new adventure! So happy to hear how positive your experience was – I am excited to see what the next few months have in store for me.
It makes me happy to see both of your comments! I love hearing stories from other people who’ve had similar experiences. The most amazing relationships we’ve made in our travels have come from the various seasonal jobs we’ve worked. Seasonal work/travel teaches us so much about ourselves, who we are, what we really need, who our friends are, and what we really care about. Not every day is sunshine and rainbows, far from it. There are hard days, rainy days, days when you just don’t feel like dealing with tourists, days when you just don’t feel like dealing with your coworkers, and days you think you’d never get through if it wasn’t for those same coworkers. Relationships like the ones Staci mentioned aren’t formed without going through something amazing together. The relationships you build in these situations are forged in fire and ice. I know you’re going to have an amazing summer. Send us an email and keep us updated. We’d love to hear about your experience!
Hi there, my 18 year old son is leaving Apr. 22 to work in Skagway. I am a little nervous about it. He has never been away from home. I know the experience will be good for him, though. Would you have any advice on what he should pack or the necessities he should bring along?
Hi Shelly. What an exciting adventure your son is about to have. Last year, while working at the Grand Canyon, we met a 19 year old man whose main passion in life is dogs. We encouraged him to apply for a position working with the sled dogs in Skagway. This year he mushed in his first multi day race. Skagway is the kind of place that changes people’s lives. Your son needs to pack a humble attitude, but if he doesn’t have one, someone in town will certainly help him find one! 😉 Most essentials can be found in town, though things can be a little pricier up there. Camping gear would be a plus, but also available for rent in town if he doesn’t have it. The hardware store has most things and locals operate on a system of “If the hardware store doesn’t carry it, you don’t need it. But they can also probably order it” Amazon works up there too. What kind of job will he be working?
Hi! The first time I visited Skagway, I was hooked! I just returned, this time with my husband, and now he loves it too. We have a high schooler, and are seriously contemplating a move there once he’s graduated. Like most, I’m a little scared to leave corporate America behind, but also excited at the thought of leaving it. What did you guys do after the season was over? (for instance, I overheard a bartender say she and her partner made enough during the summer to not work at all when they returned home to OR in the winter months). I just want a realistic vision regarding finances. Feel free to use my email if you’d prefer!
Hi Gina! Thanks so much for reaching out. We haven’t been to skagway in a few years, but we miss it so much and talk about going back nearly every day. After our first summer in Skagway we spent a winter in Colorado working at ski resorts. I was bartending and gabby was managing an ice skating rink. After that we ended up going back for a second summer. After our second summer we took some time off from work and traveled around the west for a few month before heading back east to our families. We survived on our summer savings until January when we started new jobs at the Grand Canyon. We didn’t hve the most high paying jobs in Skagway, nor did we budget super well. But we do have friends who are bartenders who work only 5 months of the year. The rest of the time they’re traveling in SE asia or somewhere with a low cost of living. If you’re on the fence i’d say go for it. Try one summer, you’ll never regret it. If you fall in love with Skagway, you’ll figure out a way to make it work. <3
Hey Everybody Greetings from The Skyeman Hey I just wanted to say Thank You for all the postive comments in all your blogs!! I lived and worked in Skagway for over 30 years and it truly is a Magical Place! believe it or not I still have friends that I met 35 years ago in Skagway and were still friends today! Currently I’m in Jackson Hole Wyoming now you wanna talk about a expensive place come here and you will Run Run RUN back to Alaska!! Oh theres jobs but where are you gonna live ,? ??? Me I’m in the back of my pickup truck for another week then its back to Skagway! I’ve been in retail , cooking , construction , and guiding in Skagway and know it like the back of my hand if anybody ever has any questions just ask I’ll be more then willing to answear them for you!! all the Best to everybody hope to see you in the GREAT LAND! I’ll be a SMILLING hope you will be too!!! Skyeman OUT!
Thanks for reaching our Skyeman! I’m so glad to hear that you’re headed back to Skagway. Skagway is a place that you can always come back to. As you know housing is always the issue in Skagway too, I hope you have something figured out. Where will you be working this season?
Sorry to be tacky, John, but do you happen to know what bartenders average each day in tips? I’ve heard 49th State Brewing is a good place to work. All I’ve heard is “they make great money,” but realize that we all have a different perception about what “great money” is.